Massachusetts Fights to Protect LGBTQ Youth Against Conversion Therapy

Massachusetts is working to protect LGBTQ youth. On Monday, Governor Charlie Baker signed a law that bans conversion therapy on minors. The new legislation overwhelmingly passed through the state House and Senate in March and it bans Massachusetts health care providers from doing the so-called “therapy” on people under 18.

Conversion therapy, which claims to be able to change someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, has been soundly rejected by every mainstream medical and mental health organization for several decades.

Conversion therapy can lead to depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide. In 2007, the American Psychological Association reviewed existing research on conversion therapy and found that the “results of scientifically valid research indicate that it is unlikely that individuals will be able to reduce same-sex attractions or increase other-sex sexual attractions through SOCE.”

However, opponents of Massachusetts’s law protecting LGBTQ youth are planning a legal challenge on the basis that the new law violates the First Amendment. Opponents, such asthe Massachusetts Family Institute, claim that the law impedes religious leaders and health care providers to “counsel” people.

However, conversion therapy has not historically been about so-called counseling. In the past, health care professionals have turned to institutionalization, castration and electroconvulsive shock therapy to try to turn LGBT people heterosexual.

Modern conversion therapies are still invasive and damaging. According to a 2009 report of the American Psychological Association, therapists have used a variety of other medieval ways to try and make someone heterosexual.

This includes inducing nausea, vomiting or paralysis or shocking them with electricity while showing the person homoerotic images. Other techniques are having the LGBT individual painfully snap an elastic band around their wrist when aroused by same-sex erotic images or thoughts, shaming the person to try and create aversion to the same sex, orgasmic reconditioning and satiation therapy.

There are other less physically invasive but still mentally and emotionally damagingtechniques like trying to make a patient’s behavior more stereotypically feminine or masculine, teaching so-called heterosexual dating skills and even using hypnosis — all based on the (scientifically discredited) belief that being LGBT is something wrong or bad.

Massachusetts is only the 16th state to institute a conversion therapy ban.

No senators voted in opposition to the legislation. However, several Republican senators didn’t vote for or against it and said they worried the legislation somehow violated the free speech of health care providers, parental rights and privacy and patient confidentiality.

Democrat Senator Joan Lovely, said the new law “relies on well-established authority of the state to regulate professional conduct,” and that it prohibits specific actions by health providers, not their speech.

Massachusetts Family Institute President Andrew Beckwith said it will legally challenge the Counseling Ban to “defend those constitutional rights.” Beckwith also described the law banning abusive conversion therapy as “an extraordinarily invasive assault on the rights of parents to raise their children.”

The Massachusetts Family Institute, a conservative organization, has previously tried to link homosexuality to child abuse, along with its newest mission of trying to continue conversion therapy’s abusive practices on minors.